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Brown Asians and Black people should not be asked to support a movie that does not support them.

By Sangeetha Thanapal [This piece is the second in a two-part critique of race in "Crazy Rich Asians", you can read the first one here.] Many are lauding “Crazy Rich Asians” as a step in the right direction for the representation of Asians in Hollywood. Some have even gone so far as to call it the “Asian ‘Black Panther’”, and its setting, Singapore, the “Chinese Wakanda.” The truth is that the movie is actually far from being a win for representation, largely because it perpetuates existing racist dynamics in Singapore. It simply is not the “Great Asian Hope” that it is being portrayed as. While it is being billed as an Asian movie, it is made up almost entirely of East Asians. The few Brown people featured in it are seen in service positions to the glamorous and wealthy Chinese characters. The dominance of East Asia in the worldwide imagination of who constitutes the idea of Asia is troubling, especially since Brown Asians make up a sizeable portion of the continent. The tendency to equate East Asia with all Asians wipes out the many differences between us. An East Asian-Brown Asian divide exists specifically because Brown Asians have been overlooked from the American definition of Asian for generations. There has been much criticism against such erasure, and this movie only propagates it by branding a Chinese cast as a movie for all Asians. It presents Brown Asians as a backdrop to East Asian opulence and success, reinforcing the notion that Brown people are inferior to East Asians, those in closer proximity to whiteness. It further entrenches the idea that East Asians are the only Asians that matter. This should not be the case, especially because East Asians buy into and promote the model minority myth, conveniently cutting out those who do not fit into this narrative. Commentators keep referring it to as the first movie with an all-Asian cast in over two decades. However, Hari Kondabolu’s documentary “The Problem With Apu” also had a predominantly Asian cast, but because Brown Asians are often ignored within the U.S., the movie was not praised the way Crazy Rich Asians is being. One might say that a documentary is different from a movie but then what about "Missisipi Masala" or even "Harold and Kumar"?
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As hate crimes against South Asians continue to rise, we need to dispel stereotypes and wear our voices.

By Rachna Shah On Sept. 4, 1907, a mob of around 400 white men attacked the homes of South Asian Indians in Bellingham, Washington. They threw them into the streets, beat them, and drove them out of town. Similar riots happened in Vancouver, in California, and elsewhere in the state of Washington during the rest of the decade. It was only a century later that the horror of these events was recognized by Bellingham’s government. Yet while race riots and Asian exclusion efforts are a part of American and Asian history, they are largely ignored in textbooks and the media. India is associated with the caste system and third-world diseases. In film and on television, South Asian Indians are portrayed as extremes rather than as spectrums — as either too willing to assimilate or not willing to assimilate. In moving forward, the coverage of South Asia must be more accurate and comprehensive. Mainstream media not only mirrors, but shapes our culture. It produces and reinforces stereotypes of certain cultural groups. Having one’s history and experiences recognized and appreciated in mainstream media allows young South Asians to embrace their culture, not be ashamed of it. South Asians have long been portrayed as separate and different than white people. They have heavy accents, eat spicy foods, and are generally nerds or geeks, until the very recent past, according to Dr. Bhoomi Thakore, Assistant Professor and Director of the Sociology Program at Elmhurst College. “Today, actors such as Mindy Kaling, Aziz Ansari, Kal Penn, and Priyanka Chopra are players in a larger Hollywood elite circle that inform the ability to move ahead in that industry,” Dr. Thakore explains. “For example, Kaling originally started as a writer for “The Office”, and essentially wrote her character for the show. Over the years, Kaling’s character existed as someone who just happened to be Indian, who was ‘just like everyone else.’”
Related: NO THANK YOU, APU — DON’T COME AGAIN.

The stupendous complexity of Hindu immigrants’ conundrum magnifies when they ‘attempt’ to celebrate Diwali in communities where Hindus are a minority.

By Nandita Godbole “If you date, find a Hindu fellow,” instructions from my doting father, as I left India for the United States in 1995. Given his long tenure in public service, he believed that sectarian differences were less contentious than religious ones, displaying and reading from holy books of different faiths at his work desk, offering a safe conversation space to those who approached him. Yet, he could not have imagined that although the premise of Hinduism appears inclusive, practicing it imposes subtle expectations on women. When one moves away, and becomes an immigrant, it intensifies their immigrant experience, affects their accent, attire, grooming, food, travel, etc. Along with these shifts of adjustments, the stupendous complexity of Hindu immigrants’ conundrum magnifies when they ‘attempt’ to celebrate Diwali in communities where Hindus are a minority. Until the late 1990’s the Georgian calendar did not include Diwali and I recall that friends would be taken aback by my ‘Happy Diwali’ reminders. What nuances remained veiled under enthusiastic celebrations in one’s home country, became targeted glaring differences in the new country. Outwardly, the vibrancy and essence of this unmistakably Hindu celebration filter through the lens of a new country and its commercial substitutions. Paraffin votives replace traditional clay lamps, floral wreaths replace fragrant floral doorway garlands, adhesive floor designs replace elaborate forms of rangoli, Christmas lights replace colorful ‘lanterns’, fireworks are limited. A quick trip to an ethnic grocery store freezer replaces the age-old tradition of handcrafting desserts, and spontaneous family visits become a trip to a ticketed ‘Diwali Mela’, if accessible and affordable. But these are not the problems.
Related: 3 THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT DIWALI

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